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“Dairy Margin Coverage Program” Schumer Helped Enact In 2018 Farm Bill Will Expire This September, Meaning Without Fed Action Monthly Payments To Dairy Farmers Could Cease, Hitting North Country And St. Lawrence County – With 230+ Dairy Farms, NY’s #3 Milk Producing County – The Hardest

Schumer Says Upstate Dairy Farms and Consumers Will Be First Impacted If We “Go Over The Dairy Cliff” – Reverting Back To 1940's Era Policy, Leading To Severe Supply Chain Disruptions, Doubling The Price Of Milk, And Causing Billions In Avoidable Fed Spending  

Schumer: We Cannot Afford To Let Fed Support For North Country Dairies Spoil, It’s Time To Churn Up Support To Protect This Program For Upstate NY Farmers and Consumers

Standing at Keystone Dairy, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today revealed that the vital Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) Program North Country dairy farmers rely on is in limbo as the program is set to expire, which could have farmers facing a “dairy cliff,’ – an outcome that could double wallop farmers and consumers.

Schumer explained that the 2018 Farm Bill enacted the DMC, which offers monthly price support payments from the feds to dairy farmers, will end in September and if no action is taken would lead to less support for our farmers, severe supply chain disruptions and an increase in the price of milk. Schumer is now launching a new push to protect this program, as Congress begins negotiations for this year’s farm bill, to ensure Upstate New York dairy farmers have the support and safety net they need.

“St. Lawrence County is the heart of Upstate New York’s dairy industry, with over 230 dairy farms, and by the end of this year many could be looking over a ‘dairy cliff’ that threatens lifeline payments, puts the industry in limbo, and increases the price of milk,” said Senator Schumer. “The Dairy Margin Coverage Program is essential to support our farmers, like Twin Mills Farms, and to keep best quality milk made from New York farms flowing to families across America. I helped enact the Dairy Margin Coverage Program in the 2018 Farm Bill and I will not stop fighting to churn up support to protect this critical program for our Upstate dairy farmers.”

“Right now, margins for dairy producers are about as tough as I’ve ever seen them. Thankfully, the DMC program is built for times like these,” said Keystone Farms Co-owner Eric Fonda. “In recent years, the DMC program has provided our 7-million-pound dairy farm with much needed support in the face of milk prices falling below the cost of production, providing as much as 10% of our farm’s income some months. With the DMC set to expire this September, it is critical that we get this program reauthorized to avoid the dairy cliff scenario that Senator Schumer has warned of here today. I would like to thank Senator Schumer for coming to my family’s farm to raise awareness about this important issue and advocate for St. Lawrence county’s dairy farmers.”

“Dairy farmers are critical to our rural economies and regional food security. Today they are facing extreme financial challenges, suffering through the lowest margins in over a decade, said Catherine de Ronde, Vice President of Economics & Legislative Affairs, Agri-Mark Dairy Cooperative. “The Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) Program is a vital safety-net that has proved invaluable in recent months. Congress must act to reauthorize the pending 2023 farm bill and ensure that the DMC program remains intact and evolves to fit the needs of today’s dairy farmers. We thank Senator Schumer for his ongoing leadership and support of New York’s dairy farm families.”

“As one of the top milk producing counties in the entire country, our dairy farmers are at the very heart of St. Lawrence County. Through conversations with friends and neighbors, I recognize and appreciate the hard work and long days that St. Lawrence County dairy farmers put in season after season, year after year. Going over the dairy cliff would make their work even harder, and that is something we should all fight against,” said St. Lawrence County Administrator Ruth Doyle. “If it comes to pass, the Dairy Cliff scenario will not only hurt our dairy farmers, but it will also have a serious impact on county residents. Supply chain disruptions may make it difficult for consumers to find dairy products on store shelves and the price of milk could increase by as much as 100%, making it all the more critical for Congress to reauthorize the DMC in this years farm bill. I want to personally thank Senator Schumer for coming here today to fight for reauthorization of the Dairy Margin Coverage program. On behalf of us all in St. Lawrence County, we support you in this endeavor.”

Schumer explained the ‘dairy cliff’ refers to the expiration of the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program, a risk management tool that offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. If Congress doesn’t pass a 2023 Farm Bill and the DMC is allowed to lapse, the dairy industry would be the first impacted, as dairy farmers would lose out on monthly payments through the DMC, whereas farmers participating in other support programs are paid just once per year around harvest time. If we were to “go over the dairy cliff” that would mean:

  • An end to monthly price support payments to dairy farmers who participate in the Dairy Margin Coverage program
  • Massive supply chain disruptions that could reduce access to fluid milk, increase the price of dairy products by more than double current prices, and have lasting impacts on farmers, families, and food banks
  • Billions of dollars in avoidable federal government spending

These impacts would be felt especially hard in the North Country and places like St. Lawrence County, which is New York’s #3 milk producing county and according to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture, #52 in America. St. Lawrence County sells about $139 million worth of cow’s milk every year, representing roughly 72 percent of all profits from agricultural products sold in the county. St. Lawrence County is home to 35,000 dairy cows and markets over 73 million pounds of milk annually for use in milk products, such as milk powder, protein powder, and fluid milk. Schumer said that St. Lawrence is vital to New York’s dairy industry, and is the home to over 230 dairy farms.

Keystone Dairy is a second and third-generation family owned dairy farm that that has been operating in St. Lawrence County for over seven decades. The Fonda family, owners of Keystone Dairy, milk over 300 happy and healthy St. Lawrence County dairy cows and produce more than seven million pounds of milk each year. According to co-owners Eric and Phillip Fonda, the DMC has become vital to Keystone Dairy, especially during years like 2023 when milk prices are lower and margins are significantly tighter. Keystone Dairy is a member of Agri-Mark, Inc., a family owned dairy cooperative marketing more than 376 million gallons of milk each year to be made into Cabot and McCadam branded products, including cheese, yogurt, butter, and more. The cooperative consists of 575 dairy farm families across the Northeast, of which 290 are located in New York State and 174 are located in the North Country. Agri-Mark dairy farmers are avid users of the DMC program, so much so that reauthorization of the DMC is Agri-Mark’s top priority in this year’s farm bill. Agri-Mark recently completed a $30 million expansion modernization project at its manufacturing facility Franklin County, which produces award-winning cheeses using milk from cows at St. Lawrence County farms like Keystone Dairy.

Failing to reauthorize the Farm Bill and going over the dairy cliff would not only negatively impact payments to dairy farmers, but it would also cause massive market disruption for larger factories as well as smaller dairy operations like Keystone Dairy, major price increases for consumers, and avoidable increases in government spending. Schumer explained that the only way to avoid going over the dairy cliff is for Congress to come together in a bipartisan fashion, as they have always done, to reauthorize these programs in the 2023 Farm Bill. The senator explained that the Farm Bill is usually enacted every five to seven years. The current Farm Bill, which was passed in 2018, is set to expire on September 30th, 2023.

The dairy industry would begin to see severe impacts at the start of the year on January 1st, 2024. If no Farm Bill is passed and the DMC is allowed to lapse, the country would be forced to revert back to 1940’s agriculture policy. Farmers would lose the support and protection offered by DMC and the law would require the federal government to stabilize prices by taking milk off the market through milk purchases. The government would be required to purchase milk at a price that is more than double the current market price, which could cost the federal government billions of dollars in otherwise avoidable spending and could result in price increases being passed onto consumers, which would have devastating impacts on consumers and nutrition programs that offer milk and dairy products to people in need. The availability of fluid milk and dairy products could also be impacted; consumers could see fewer options in stores and food manufacturers could see less dairy product availability for products like baby formula, protein powder, and other products that use dairy ingredients. The widespread supply chain and market disruption caused by the DMC’s expiration would have devastating impacts to the dairy industry, farmers, and consumers across the country.

The dairy industry is one of New York's largest contributor to the agricultural economy. According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Dairy statistics, there are approximately 3,600 dairy farms in New York that produce over 15 billion pounds of milk annually, making New York the nation’s fourth largest dairy state.